A former professor of mine has stated that “Christians who condone premarital sex, either explicitly or tacitly, have no principled reason to object to homosexual activity.” Further, Dr. Walls claims that people who “ignore scriptural teaching on premarital sex, and the clear consensus of the Church that such behavior is sinful … are hardly in a position to get too worked up about the Biblical prohibition of homosexual behavior.” This seems specious prima facie, but let’s give it an honest look.
Here is the line of reasoning which I believe he holds. We have essential beliefs A and B, which are that (A) premarital sex is wrong, and (B) same-sex sexual activity is wrong. C, Christianity, is true only in case of both A and B. We may state this also as C implies A and C implies B.
From this logic, it is clear that if A is not true, then C is not true, either. Therefore, if anyone were to reject A and state that premarital sex is okay at least in some circumstances, then there would be no way for anyone to hold to B, either — at least not on the grounds of C, Christianity.
There are two ways to address this: first, we must clarify that any serious changes to general Christian sexual ethics are not made in ignorance of historical teachings. Rather, they reflect nuanced positions in light of changing cultural demands and expectations, thus the spirit of both A and B survive in the Christian desire for justice. We see here that the change in our stance on same-sex relations was made knowingly and not lightly, not just because we have loose morals or theological ignorance. I have already written about this topic — twice, in fact — so be sure to read through those posts.
More importantly, though, we need to dismantle and discredit the narrative that increasing acceptance of gender/sexual minorities by Christian is related to sin. This is a shameful tactic which indicates a refusal to grapple with the issue at the level of seriousness it necessitates.
In truth, changing views on homosexuality are about standing in solidarity with the downtrodden and despised. Sure, there are likely people jumping on the bandwagon to remain part of the in-crowd. Maybe there is some degree of that with me; I can never be sure. But I have given much to maintain my beliefs, even against some people very close to me. And I constantly hear of how much people have to lose — or have lost — in standing up for this issue.
I’ve been through my own share of religiously-inspired trauma, as has my wife. It has hurt us significantly, and there is at least some long-term damage in both of us. If what we experienced hurt us so badly, though, I cannot imagine what kind of torture it must be to told that one is an abomination to God, that their naturally-arising desires are a result of sin, that their love is tainted, etc.
We have to count the human cost of our beliefs. This isn’t just about being correct, though of course I believe I have taken the correct position (or else I would believe something else). Put yourself in the position of a gay teenager who hearing the line of reasoning in Dr. Walls argument: the only reason his friends support him is because they’ve weakened their ethics in general. Now even the love shown to him by others is suspect. Imagine the paranoia and self-doubt.
I’ve heard all sorts of statistics that same-sex couples have more problems than straight couples. Of course they do: a good portion of society has told them to doubt who they are. They have refused to support those couples in times of need. They have cast them out, spit on them, rejected them, and tried to ruin their lives. By contrast, the movement to support gays and lesbians is our attempt to fulfill the words of Matthew 25:31-43:
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
Secular supporters of gay marriage may often say they want to be on the right side of history. What they call “history,” though, I will call Jesus Christ. We will stand to account for our actions, and if in our quest for theological certainty we abandon those in need, then our good theology will see us damned.
Support of same-sex relationships is not about loosening Christian morals. It is about Christ-like solidarity with those whom society has cast out, even if it means going against what we have been raised to believe. If the conversation between conservative and progressive Christians is to continue, then it must be in terms of how best to support the gay community, not in terms of fabricated excuses for changes in belief.
This post is part of The Despised Ones’ synchroblog on the topic of solidarity and social justice.